“I began acting when I was three years old recurring on Daytime Drama Series THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS playing Summer Newman. This is where I fell in love with acting, and the rest is history.”
2. Who/what inspired you to become an actress?
“I continue to be inspired by so many incredible actors in this industry—Jodie Comer, Zendaya and Scarlett Johansson.”
3. Do you prefer acting in movies or television shows?
“I love them both so much! What I love most about acting in movies is there’s more flexibility with adlibs. What I enjoy most about working on television shows is watching my character develop over time.”
The acting process explained
4. Which types of acting do you feel you are most suited for?
“I wouldn’t say I’m most suited for any specific role as I feel that I’m a well-rounded actress and enjoy playing a wide variety of roles. From comedy for Nickelodeon to Criminal Minds I enjoy all opportunities given to me.”
5. What is the first thing you do to research and approach a role?
“For me, I study the script and review it several times. Then I look up the director to see what other things they have worked on. If it is a television show, I will watch some episodes to see the tone of the show.”
6. Did you always know you wanted to be an actress?
“Yes, and to be a director !! That’s all I ever want to do.”
7. Have you ever gotten starstruck by any of the actors/actresses you have met and/or worked with?
“Recently, I worked with Elizabeth Banks whose work I admire tremendously. Her ability to work as both an actress and director is something I’m in awe of, as I also hope to do both in the future.”
The Challenges of being an Actress
8. Describe your most challenging role to date.
“Definitely, Frankie! I play her on the Daytime Emmy winning Series , THE BAY and spin off yA. Frankie goes through a lot of emotional ups and downs throughout both shows. I have to dig deep into my emotions to bring her character to life.”
9. Do you find it more challenging or comforting to have an identical twin sister in the same field as you?
“My sister is my best friend and biggest supporter. It’s comforting to have someone understand the ups and downs of this business going through it with me. I couldn’t imagine it being any other way.”
10. How were you discovered for “Call Jane,” and can you elaborate on the casting process?
“Every casting is different; however, this audition was done via self-tape, which has become the new normal due to COVID.”
Shelby Surdam is a rising force. Her youth is not a limitation on her already impressive resume of shows. From starring on “Believe Me” to the main role in “SKAM Austin”, an iteration of the SKAM series, she is a force to be reckoned with.
“Cruel Summer” is her latest project, a psychological thriller that centers on the problematic teenhood set in the ’90s where the drama lay bare and authentic, that is without social media. Shelby stars as Tenielle, a “queen bee” whose life is upended by the disappearance of her posse. Learn about her life on set and as an actress at large below.
Photographer Credits: Anthony Chiang
What was your experience like filming for “Cruel Summer”?
Everyone was phenomenal! To the writers, actors, crew, everyone is so talented. They are real pros and I felt really safe while filming during these times. It was a blessing to work on this project and I’m really grateful for the friends and the memories made along the way. It was a great time filming!
As Tenielle, how did you channel a “queen bee” persona? Were there any challenges you faced learning her character?
Well, I was homeschooled in high school, so it was a little bit of a challenge finding this “queen bee” persona but we have an amazing team of wardrobe, hair, and makeup that helped a lot as I think if you feel confident then it will show. That’s what being a “queen bee” is all about – having confidence.
What was it like regressing back to your high school self for the role?
Well, being homeschooled I felt I never got a real high school experience and now I feel like I’ve had one! Especially since at that age I was very nerdy so I never thought I would be playing a popular girl. Playing Tenielle is so different, she’s very much a gossip who tells it like she sees or hears it.
Photographer Credits: Anthony Chiang
Was there anything you learned from being on set?
There was a lot that I learned while being on set. I’m really just a watcher, just taking everything in. What was so great is that “Cruel Summer” is so women-driven. To the story, but also behind the scenes as well. Seeing Michell Purple, working with Jessica Biel and Tia Napolitano, our showrunner, they are all such hard-working women. We also had two women directors, Kellie Cryus and Alexis Ostrander, and seeing how they do it and taking directions from them was so cool. It was great to see and gave me hope that one day I can do that as well.
How did you decide to become an actress?
There were a lot of things on why I decided to become an actress. I started in theatre when I was younger and transitioned into a film when I was a teen. With doing that, I found something that I loved doing, that I was really passionate about. It’s a bug I caught because I wanted to learn everything there was to learn and I had this huge curiosity. I know I haven’t learned everything and I don’t think I ever will, but that’s the beauty of it. Finding something you never knew.
What does being an actress mean to you?
Being an actress to me means you’re helping tell a story. The great part is doing the work and the research, all while having fun. There’s also the part where viewers might resonate with it in some way. I don’t know, there are lots of emotions being an actress and that’s why I love it. Because I can feel all of them and that’s okay.
What are the (unspoken) challenges in pursuing acting as a career and in the art itself?
I think everyone knows that there is gonna be a lot of rejection, but an unspoken challenge is that sometimes it does take time, even years, to get that gig or job. I know for me it didn’t come quickly. I went to acting classes, worked at restaurants as a host, and worked in fast food. And still, I don’t think I’ve yet “made it,” whatever “making it” means to you. But everyone’s journey is different and it’s good to remember that.
Who/what motivates you whenever you’re in an acting slump or block?
If you’re ever in a slump or block I think it’s a good idea to talk to friends or family about how you are feeling. That always helps me. Usually, I don’t want to do anything, so I’ll watch movies, TV shows, some comfort films and while watching, it helps me and inspires me. Films and TV shows make me feel less alone. Hopefully one day I can do the same in projects.
What kind of projects do you hope to work on?
Photographer Credits: Anthony Chiang
I don’t want to put myself in a box genre-wise. For me, I just want to help tell stories that need to be told and matter.
Where do you hope to be in five years?
In five years I hope to still be acting. It will always be my number one passion. Hopefully, I get the opportunity to dip my toes and branch out into other avenues like directing and producing. I’m already writing! I’m writing with a great group of girls and I’m so proud of what we have right now. I would love to get something off the ground and see it come to life.
If you were given the opportunity to create your own show (reality, drama, etc.), what would you create?
If I was given the opportunity, I have two ideas. One is more fantasy: it was a book that my friend loved. It deals with life and death and wonders if the monster everyone says is real or is it really humans who are the monsters all along. I and a group of talented girls wrote a pilot for it already.
The second is more reality-based and deals with being in your twenties.
So that the readers can get to know you better, here’re some fast facts for you to answer!
Favorite animals are seals. They’re like dogs of the sea.
Star sign (and do you believe in them)?
I’m a Leo sun. Yeah, why not? It’s fun but I definitely won’t dislike you just because of your star sign.
Depending on the mood, some albums I like with no skips Rex Orange County “Pony”, Kacey Musgrave “Golden Hour”, and “Ungodly Hour” by Chloe x Halle, Dayglow has some new songs that I’ve been listening to lately! And of course, I like Taylor Swift. I could listen to her music from any album any day.
Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
Tune in on Tuesdays on Freeform to watch Cruel Summer or the next day on Hulu!
Jackie Tohn is a powerhouse of talent. An actress, writer, comedienne, and musician, her projects reflect the range she possesses from the pained Melrose in GLOW to creating, producing, and writing music for the children’s show DO RE & MI. She has recently become the host of the new Netflix cooking show Best Leftovers Ever. Learn about the different projects of Tohn and get to know her better as all her grandness and simply a person.
Being a foodie, I’m so excited for your new show Best Leftovers Ever! Could you give the readers a quick pitch? What can they expect from the show?
Best Leftovers Ever! is a wild cooking competition show. In each episode, three cooks take last night’s Leftovers and turn them into high-end cuisine, competing for the chance to win 10 thousand dollars! It’s like Pee-Wee’s Playhouse meets Chopped.
People can expect to have (maybe too much) fun watching the show. Also, it’s genuinely funny. I’ve never had the chance to say this about anything I’ve been in before, but it is truly fun for the whole family. You can also expect to learn! In every episode, we share tips and tricks for turning your leftovers at home into totally new dishes. This is also exciting because using what you have in the fridge reduces food waste. Wins across the board!
I have to say, I picked up GLOW during this quarantine break and I regret not doing so any earlier! Melanie Rosen particularly speaks to me through her Jewish representation which I don’t see all that often in the media. How does it feel knowing that you contribute to a more open discussion as well as a representation for the Jewish community?
This is such an important question to me. After the camping episode of Glow aired (Season 3 Episode 6), the response was overwhelming. So many people came out of the woodwork to tell me how much it meant to them. Our writers created this super powerful episode of television connecting two of the characters through their unfortunate common bond of inherited trauma. Jenny’s family survived the Cambodian Genocide and Melrose’s family survived the Holocaust. What’s wild, is that that storyline was based on our actual histories. Ellen Wong is the daughter of Cambodian Genocide survivors and I am the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. We got to memorialize our family’s history through the characters we played on TV. It was so so special.
Photographed by Sela Shiloni
On that same note, what was it like working with an all-female crew?
It was unreal to work on a show with mostly women. Over the course of my entire career, I had never worked with even CLOSE to that many women. Usually, there’s room for one or two women in the cast. One or two in the writer’s room. Maybe a female director pops in for an episode. And on Glow, our writers were all women but one. Our directors were all women but two. Our cast was 14 hilarious, deep, brilliant women and three (depending on the season) incredible men. And because the show was run by women, they encouraged us to be who we are. They never asked us to change our bodies. They just wanted us strong and safe (because we did all our own wrestling.) I never had a sister growing up, and now I have 13.
What was it like working on GLOW? How did this experience set you up for your other projects?
I had been acting since I was nine and Glow was my first big break – in my mid-thirties. And for a show, this rare to be my first consistent gig was an absolute dream come true. We did extensive wrestling training for a month before every season under the guidance of multi-Emmy winning stunt coordinator Shauna Duggins and wrestling royalty, Chavo Guerrero. Being on Glow and using my body the way I did really helped me rewrite the stories and false narratives I had been living my whole life – that I wasn’t athletic or strong. Glow changed how I feel about myself and what I now know I’m capable of.
On the other hand, how was your experience working on The Boys?
The Boys was a blast! I shot for three weeks in Toronto and had no idea what to expect going into it. When you’re a guest star on the first season of a show, you only get to read the episode you’re in and since the show isn’t out yet, you can’t watch it to get a grasp of the tone. So you’re sort of going in blind. I was reading the script thinking, “who is Mothers Milk, and what in the hell is going on here?!” Ha. I had an incredible time on what I now know is an AMAZING show that I am super proud to be a small part of. I’m looking forward to going back for Season three!
I imagine acting is hard enough but creating, executive producing, AND creating music for a show seems impossible. How did you manage on Do Re & Mi?
HA! Quite the opposite of impossible. I’m at my best when I’m doing 100 things at once. My brain pretty much fires on all cylinders at all times, so when I’m not busy it makes up stuff to worry about. Michael Scharf and I created Do Re & Mi way back in 2014! My BFF Kristen Bell came on board in 2015. That’s when my co-songwriter David Schuler and I started working on the music. We partnered with our dream production company, Gaumont in 2016 and started really developing the show. Amazon got on board in 2017 and green-lit us in 2018 with a massive fifty episode first season pickup! At that point, the scripts were coming in once a week and Dave and I were writing our butts off. It wasn’t till 2019 when I started doing all the jobs at once. Voice recording (I play Re the hummingbird) twice a week, songwriting twice a week, producing and giving notes on scripts and art the other days. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to having a full-time job. Do Re & Mi finally comes out in the spring of this year and I truly cannot wait for everyone to see it.
Photographed by Sela Shiloni
Starting stand-up comedy at just fourteen, you prove to be a comedic veteran. How has comedy contributed to your other works, if at all?
More than a contributing factor, I would say that comedy is the major reason I got any of those jobs in the first place. I love standup and musical comedy. I toured the country for years doing schtick and I loved it. Being funny has been my currency my whole life.
Am I allowed to ask what your favorite project, small or large, has been so far?
It’s hard to say which has been my favorite because I wished and worked for so long to have ANY job and now I just feel incredibly grateful to be part of all the incredible projects I’m working on.
Are there any future projects you hope to work on?
My writing partner and I just finished writing our musical comedy feature film – so I wanna make that! One day I’ll write my Broadway show. I just want to keep creating. I can’t not.
Any particular people?
I’d love to do some sort of mother-daughter comedy with Bette Midler – maybe that would have a musical element too. Now you got me thinking…
Lastly, I have a quick “favorites” for you to fill out to know you as a fully-fleshed person. Feel free to comment!
Favorite food: hot pretzels or pizza. I eat like a toddler.
Favorite animal: my dog Glen
Favorite hobby/past-time: singing, playing the guitar, and writing music.
Favorite person: (people) My parents.
Is there any else you would like to include for our readers? Follow me on Instagram @jackietohn
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
This week, I was so thrilled to interview Ava Cantrell, a 19-year-old actress, dancer, director, and philanthropist. Born and raised in San Diego, Cantrell began her acting career in 2008 and was recognized for her breakthrough performance of Penelope from the Nickelodeon sitcom The Haunted Hathaways in 2013. In the past decade, Cantrell has received numerous accolades for her proliferating portfolio of performances, including feature films One Under the Sun and Lights Out, CBS show young Sheldon, and numerous TV commercials, music videos, and short films. Additionally, Cantrell is a nationally-recognized competitive dancer and has directed her own short film, published a comic book, and spearheaded a variety of philanthropic endeavors.
I was so excited to speak with Cantrell about her journey to stardom, her experiences as a performer, and her upcoming endeavors.
Q: How did you first break into the television and film industry?
A: I was a dancer when I was little. At the recitals, I would always catch everyone’s eye and I stood out when performed. I was not the best dancer, but I loved to get on stage. My dad was a child actor and recognized the love of the art in me. My parents submitted to the top three agents, and they were interested! My career began at age 7, and I am still with my awesome agents Nicole and Milton.
Q: Nickelodeon’s Haunted Hathaways was your big break— please tell us about how this opportunity came to fruition and what your first experience on a major television channel was like.
A: I had been working on lots of commercials, music videos, and short films but hadn’t hit TV yet. I had auditioned, but nothing clicked. When the role of Penelope Pritchard came along, I genuinely thought it was just my role. I went in to audition WAY over the top. I dressed exactly as a young, rich, bratty little girl would dress. The role was meant to be mine.
It was my first time on a big set, and I needed a bit of extra direction to adapt to the fast pace of Nickelodeon. Fortunately, I had great coaching and picked it up fast. It was pretty amazing to book a guest star role, and even more exciting that turned into a recurring role. You never know in the business what’s going to happen. When you go on set for the first time it is super easy to get overwhelmed, but even as a young girl I knew that I needed to be professional and it was my job. During lunch and after I clocked out, I would just walk around Paramount in complete wonder and excitement! That lot has so much history and I feel lucky to be a part of it now.
Q: What was the single most challenging part of your career thus part? And what about the most rewarding?
Photo credits: Stage18 Productions
A: The most challenging part of my career is staying motivated and not getting burnt out. I have a career spanning over a decade. I have had some close calls to major roles and then not get them and that is hard. What has helped me is to have a super fulfilling life outside the industry life. I always did well in school. I graduated high school as valedictorian with a 4.4 GPA, I am in community college now, I surf often, and have a great boyfriend. The most rewarding is booking jobs. I feel incredibly grateful for each one, no matter how big or small, they have helped pave the way for my career.
Q: Is there a specific type of character you usually play? How do you connect with your characters as an actress?
A: The interesting thing about me is there is no specific role I play. I have worked on almost all genres and played all types of roles. I was the killer in Warner brothers “Lights Out,” a girl with terminal cancer in “One Under the Sun,” a bratty super doll fan in Nickelodeon “Haunted Hathaway’s,” and most recently, a drama student in “Young Sheldon” I want to work on roles that are outside of my comfort zone. I am willing to go way out on a limb for a role, and the more challenging the better. My coach and manager Sharon do character development for each of my auditions and if I am hired, I think that work helps. I love working with Sharon and bouncing around ideas and why and how. It is one of my favorite parts of acting.
Q: What is your favorite character you’ve played thus far?
A: I get asked that a lot but because I have played so many great roles, I can’t call it. I would like to think my favorite character is still in a role out there in the universe.
Q: Please share a little bit more about your experience as a dancer, director, entrepreneur, and comic book writer. How do these disparate art forms shape and inform your role as an actress?
A: All those things as well as my surfing and photography all tie together. Dance led me to act, acting led me to direct and to create a comic book. I wrote the comic book “Amulet of Lilith” with my Dad. I would love to play Lilith in a movie or on TV one day. She survived the holocaust, and her story is an interesting fast-paced one. It is amazing how many people do not know what the Holocaust is anymore, and I hope that my comic brings awareness. Being an entrepreneur runs in my family so that was a given, but I was more motivated to get my brand ZOOMe up and running because while acting is my passion but not my plan to support myself in the future. If we all stay open and don’t force things, it is amazing in which the universe can guide you. I am part of a family that taught me that the road less traveled is a beautiful one.
Photo credits: Stage18 Productions
Q: Please tell us a little more about your philanthropic endeavors and your passion for animal rights and anti-bullying activism.
A: I have been involved in charity since I was a little girl. I think it is especially important to give back. I spend my time now doing charity work and giving back over the many things people my age do. I was bullied as a young girl by people I had known my whole life. It was one of the hardest things I went through, but it made me stronger. I must tell my story even if it helps just one person. I am deeply passionate about animal rights, rescue, spay, and neuter. I lend myself to so many charities especially now over the pandemic. I have recently hosted virtual danced parties for Angel City Sports and Urban Surf Kids as well as “Acting with Ava” on Facebook live to raise money for Starlight Foundation. I love helping out!
Q: What is the one biggest piece of advice Ava Cantrell would give to young, aspiring actresses? What is one lesson you’ve learned that you wish you knew at the beginning of your career path?
Photo credits: Stage18 Productions
A: Do the work and know that slow and steady wins the race. I don’t want to be famous; I want to work for a long time in the business. Don’t go into acting for fame. Right now, you will get more famous on Tik Tok anyways, so act because it is in your blood, you are passionate about it and would do it for zero dollars. What I wish I knew is that the industry keeps changing every year in who it hires, what looks are booking, if it wants a serious actor or an influencer. If you do you, and stop looking around and comparing, you will go far in this industry. I know I have a long career because I am staying true to who I am and taking my time with the journey.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I have projects!!! Yeah! I had three on the calendar for March that all got canceled. I am going to star in an indie short called “Mission 22” with a powerful message for veterans. I am working with Brandon TV and we have a few projects in the works. Timing is everything and the timing is still a bit off. But I am here, and I am ready for the next wave of work. It will be super exciting to get back on set.
Isabella Blake-Thomas is a young actress with an impressive resumé. Most recently featured in the upcoming Disney program, “Secret Society of Second-Born Royals”, Isabella plays the Princess January. “Secret Society of Second-Born Royals” premieres September 25th on Disney+.
Cliché- Isabella, how does it feel to be so heavily involved in the entertainment industry at such a young age?
IsabellaBlake-Thomas: I feel incredibly blessed. It’s an industry that I love and so to be in-front and behind the camera on all levels is very unique. Being able to experience all aspects allows me to be a better and more considerate actress. I really enjoy the writing and the pre-production of projects. It’s incredible to have an idea and then see it fully blossom into a finished project. Running a production company with my Mom and her team means that I can also learn from the ground up and so I can help and mentor others who want to be involved from a young age.
Cliché- Does it ever feel hard to balance music, acting, producing, writing, and activism while also maintaining a life outside of these things?
Isabella Blake-Thomas: They all flow very well into each other. I enjoy writing, this can be scripts or for my music. I find a subject matter that can make a difference and so I create a role that I can play which is related to a cause I’m passionate about. The music is necessary for the film and is a good outlet to be able to make even more noise around an important issue. The project becomes my life. The rest of the time I get to read, write create and just be. Giving me the space to then get ready for the next project. It’s true what they say that if you do what you love then you don’t work a day in your life.
Cliché- As a young woman with a voice in the media, which you have used to speak about about mental health recently, what would you say drives you to use that voice for good? Do you have any inspirations that make you passionate about particular causes?
Isabella Blake-Thomas: I am the ambassador for suicide awareness with an incredible non-profit called Awareness ties. Mental health is such an important thing to talk about because so many people struggle with it. I have had 5 people close to me in the past few years who have taken their own life so I am very passionate about helping people who are struggling, to see that it’s okay to not be okay.
Cliché- Is working with Disney something you are excited about? If so, was there anything in particular that was exciting to you about the process?
Isabella Blake-Thomas: Disney is an iconic family and one that everyone, whether you’re in the film industry or not, wants to be a part of. We all grew up with Disney movies and so to suddenly be in one is quite literally, a dream come true. One of the things that excited me were the costumes. Disney princesses are known for their gorgeous wardrobes so when I got to try on incredible clothes and handmade gowns, I felt like I was living in a fairytale.
Cliché- What was it like working on a Disney set? What was your favorite part of filming?
Isabella Blake-Thomas: It was magical. We filmed in Toronto for two months so the cast and crew all became like family. We would hang out after work and on the weekends and we made so many great memories. My favorite part of filming would be the stunts. We all went through training to make sure we were prepared for any stunts we had to do. We did have stunt doubles for some of the major things but a lot of the free running stunts and the ones where we had close ups, was all us.
Cliché- You play Princess January in Secret Society of Second-Born Royals, did you find it easy to step into this role? Do you have anything in common with your character? What qualities, if any, do you see in yourself and in her?
Isabella Blake-Thomas: It was easy to become January because I essentially got to create her from scratch. I was able to create a backstory, mannerisms, reactions and little things that made her really come to life. One of my favorite things to do was create a family tree for her so in my mind, I had full awareness of who she was and where she came from . January and I share lots of things. First of all, we look identical… *wink wink* second of all, we are both extroverted. January and I were both home-schooled and we love being happy and smiling, in fact we are known for it.
Cliché- Your previous work includes a diverse list of television productions, including Shameless and Doctor Who. Is there anything different about working in a production more geared towards a younger audience?
Isabella Blake-Thomas: Definitely. The way people work is different. If the subject matter is for an older audience then as a young actress, the producers really protect you. Often there’s someone on set to make sure the actors are comfortable with the scenes they are doing, regardless of their age. However, if you’re part of a project that anyone could watch then you get to see all aspects. Also your acting styles are different. For a younger audience it’s slightly bigger and there’s more movement because it’s what attracts a child to watch. When you’re acting for adults, your movement is smaller and less noticeable because adults like not being distracted from the story. I was lucky with Secret Society because it was a combination of both. I was able to have the comical moments and beats but I was equally able to stay real and honest to my character and her journey.
Cliché- As a rising star, what do you hope to do in the future? Do you have any dream roles that you aspire to play, or upcoming projects that you are excited about?
Isabella Blake-Thomas: I’m always excited about the future. I have some wonderful projects that I’m working on including a children’s TV show called “Captain Jemma and The Space Pirates.” I love working and so I’m always thinking about my next roles. A superhero would be brilliant, I also enjoy playing iconic characters from History. I would love to be directed by Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino.
Cliché- You are part of a production company, Mother & Daughter Entertainment, that focuses on making “content that matters”. What are some of the responsibilities that come with being a founding member of a production company with so many outlets, such as a podcast, music, and publishing?
Isabella Blake-Thomas:I oversee a lot of our projects “from script to screen” as they say. I’m also responsible for creating new projects and I’m heavily involved in the ideas. We want them to be something that can make a difference in the world. It’s important that all our voices are heard and we take that as a huge responsibility. I’m very proud to be part of such a forward thinking female led company.
If you don’t know Lesa Wilson, you will soon. With three projects coming out in July alone, this southern belle is one to watch. Wilson, known for her role as ‘Bobbie Burman’ in CW’s “Stargirl,” is moving into film with her roles in “Coins For Love” and “Stars Fell On Alabama.” Today, Lesa talks to us about everything from her new movies to her southern roots, to her passion for the environment. This well-rounded actress does it all!
Maya: July is a huge month for you, with three projects coming out, what has it been like transitioning from role to role?
Lesa: It’s been a lot of fun! I find a piece of each character that I can relate to and I lean into that. Humans are complex so the variety of characters has just allowed me to explore a lot of emotions and experiences on screen.
M: That being said, what is your favorite kind of character to play?
L: I love playing characters that are up to no good; the troublemakers. It taps into the part of me that wants to be more of a rule-breaker because I’m so much of a rule follower in real life.
M: Through these various projects, you’ve got to work with so many different people. Who do you feel like has influenced you the most?
L: Meg DeLacy – primarily because we worked so closely together during Stargirl and became friends. Her approach to the work is casual and relaxed. I think that’s something that most actors miss. You do your best work in a relaxed state. She’s really mastered that. It’s fun to watch and it makes for a fantastic scene partner.
M: “Stars Fell on Alabama.” is premiering in July 2020, what type of person is going to love this movie?
L: Anyone who loves a feel-good, family movie. It’s a project that I’m proud to be a part of. I know my parents will really enjoy watching it. I’ve always wanted to do work that my family can watch and enjoy, so this one is really special for me.
M: Director V.W. Scheich described the film as ‘a love letter to the south.” I know you’re from the south, were Miss GA USA, and you’re an activist for Environment Georgia. Did your love for the south influence your role as Rachel?
L: Of course! I’m a born and raised Georgia girl so Southern hospitality and warmth is in my bones. Rachel is the kindest, most southern sweetheart that you’ll ever meet. She’s the girl that you know you’ll come across if you live in a small southern town, and you will probably want to be best friends with her.
M: You also have the movie “Coins For Love” coming out in July 2020. Could you tell us a little bit about that film and your character?
Angela Murray Photography
L: Coins for Love is the sequel to a film called Coins for Christmas, which is also on TV One. The story follows Madison (Essence Atkins), a single mother, and her boss Alec (Stephen Bishop). There’s the potential of love between them, but my character, Shellee, is running interference. She’s Alec’s ex fiancé and has her sights set on winning him back. Madison’s ex-husband is also trying to get her back so there’s plenty of drama, some tears, family, love and a heartwarming resolution.
M: What kind of work are you looking forward to doing in the future? What is your dream role to play?
L: I am excited to play characters that are complex and have layers that unfold throughout a season or throughout the course of a film. For me that would look something like Erin Brockovich. That would be a dream role for me to play especially considering my passion for environmentalism.
M: What is next for Lesa?
L: Once we get beyond Covid-19, I’m jumping right back into acting, but right now I just have to wait until it’s safe to work again. In the meantime, I’m working on creating a web series of short segments on environmentalism. It’s called Going Green. I’ll be sharing small changes we all can make to help preserve the health of our planet. I hope it encourages people to think about the greater impact their individual choices have on the environment.
Patricia “Patti” French is a woman of many talents. She started an acting career in the theatre while also working as a voice-over talent. She later attended the National Shakespeare Conservatory in New York and hasn’t stopped acting since. Her TV credits are extensive, with each project being as recognizable as the A-list actors attached to them. This past year she was a part of the highly anticipated Hulu series titled The Act that details the real-life story of a toxic mother and daughter relationship.
She most recently starred in a movie with film icons Diane Keaton and Jackie Weaver, titled Poms that hit theaters this past Mother’s Day. I had a chance to speak to Patti directly after its release in July. Patti is a woman of many talents and wisdom. Check out our conversation below:
Clichè: Your most recent work is in the hilarious film Poms, growing up I read that you had a passion for music and dance. Were you a cheerleader in high school?
Patti: I was not! Mostly because I was a navy brat, every two years I was going to a new school. To be a cheerleader and be apart of the clique you have to be somewhere for a long time. When my dad did finally retire it was right before my junior year. I was actually able to go to one high school for at least two years! In fact, I am getting ready to go to my 50th-year high school reunion! It’s the 50th anniversary of all the great things like Woodstock and the walk on the moon and my graduating from high school [laughs]. I was really involved with Glee Club and Drama Club.
Your character in the film Phyllis, is described as pretty feisty, can you talk more about her? How similar is she to you in real life?
I think the things that are similar are she loves to dance, she loves music, she loves to hang out with a group of girls and she’s a team player.
The film’s tagline is “It’s never too late to dream” and the film follows a group of women who revisit a dream of theirs that they never got the chance to fulfill. Did this film remind you or make you want to revisit anything you may have missed out on?
For me, it was always a dream for me to work with Dianne Keaton. She is one of my favorite actresses as well as Jackie Weaver. I’ve been a Dianne Keaton fan as long as I can remember. That was a dream come true! She was everything and more that I thought she would be. She did not disappoint. She greeted all the actresses on the first day of Bootcamp. She saw the film before everyone else and called everyone and was just so supportive. She’s a girl’s girl.
Alisha Boe, Patti French, Charlie Tahan, Jacki Weaver, Director Zara Hayes, Pam Grier, Diane Keaton, Celia Weston, Rhea Perlman, Carol Sutton, Ginny MacColl, and Bruce McGill attend the World Premiere of POMS at Regal LA LIVE on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 in Los Angeles, CA
Photo: Eric Charbonneau
Did you have a chance to tell her how much she inspired you or did you play it cool?
I did play it cool but on the last day before we wrapped everyone was running around and giving each other gifts. I had taken all my gifts to the trailers and I took Diane’s gift but decided I would write it in a fan letter. I told her, “Hey, this is a fan letter and I just want to tell you the different moments in your films and how much they meant to me”, it turned into this four-page crazy letter. About an hour later I got this knock on my trailer door and it was her! She came in and she was like “I can’t believe you wrote all of that!” It was a lovely moment.
The film has a few dance sequences, with your background in dance, did you have to rehearse? Your co-star Diane Keaton said she needed a lot of rehearsal practice. In some interviews, I’ve heard it described as boot camp.
Oh God yes! We all rehearsed the same amount. I was the youngest of the group and we’re 68! Everyone was going home sore with our hips and knees [laughs]. Boot Camp was a week in L.A. and we flew back to Georgia for filming and we had about 2 weeks of rehearsal. I actually wish there have been more dance footage in the film. Maybe it’ll be on the DVD!
The main character in Poms, Martha, views going to a retirement community as “going to die”, it also addresses the idea of loneliness as we all get older, how do you relate to this film and how important do you think it is to have stories like this be told about women of a certain age?
First of all, I think it is important to tell stories about women of any age. If you study history and look back at older civilizations, the older women weren’t shunned, they were looked up to for all their wisdom. There is a lot of us baby boomers and they should be making movies for us because we’re the people that are going to the movies and paying for them. I just think of some of the things I’m watching now, Grace and Frankie, The Kominskty Method, some of the characters in The Marvelous Mrs. Masiol, there’s just so many great female’s out there and they’re dying to act no matter how old they are and I just hope somebody will just keep writing these stories. And apparently, it’ll just have to be the women!
What do you hope audiences take away when they watch the film?
I think the thing I want audiences to take away is that a group of women can be very powerful and they can accomplish things that maybe they could not have done alone. That bond and that friendship and that girl friendship, you never grow out of that. It’s always there until it’s not. It’s not that way sometimes for men. I think we’re lucky that we’re able to vulnerable enough to go “Oh my gosh, I’m really scared. Am I going to be able to do this?” That bond is really important and so it the power of a group. With everything that’s going on now in Georgia and in the South, if us women don’t band together and figure out a way to activate ourselves as a group, it’s going to be really bad and we will be letting down the younger women that we made all these strides for. We need to bond as a group and not let people hold us down!
The film came out during Mother’s Day weekend, do you have a favorite Mother’s Day memory?
I do! It would be this one actually! I wish my mother was still here to see it, but my daughter and granddaughter came up from Florida and we went to see the movie together and we spent Mother’s Day weekend together. My daughter wanted to take a selfie of all three of us together and a woman came up and said “I can take your picture! Oh, are you the woman that was in the movie?” It was nice. I may have had some other [great memories] and I sure as hell wish my mother was still here to see this but this is going to be my new favorite Mother’s Day! Oh, and then my husband cooked for all of us!
Patti French attends the World Premiere of POMS at Regal LA LIVE on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 in Los Angeles, CA
Photo: Eric Charbonneau
You also are apart of another project that everyone is talking about, The Act on Hulu that retells a very true and horrific story. You play Tina, before joining this project did you know the real story?
I knew part of it but then I watched the HBO documentary, which is truly more horrifying than the mini-series. I think they did an amazing job making the mini-series watchable because it was almost impossible to watch the documentary. A pretty different Mother’s Day story.
When you read a script, what pops up to you that makes you say “this role will be great for me!” what catches your eye?
Well, sometimes you don’t always have a chance to read the whole script depending on your role. But, a good story is a good story.
Throughout your career, you’ve worked alongside legendary actors on TV and film sets, what has been your favorite moment on set? What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned from the previous projects you’ve been a part of?
I think the most important lessons are, you have to show up and you have to be brave. You can’t be vulnerable if you are not brave. You can’t worry about how you look and when you are really feeling self-conscious, just throw it away and concentrate on the other person. It leaves you in the moment and you are listening.
Do you have any memorable stories from any set that you’ve worked on?
Some of them are on stage because I’ve done a lot of stage work. I was lucky enough to play Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire and that was an amazing experience. A few years ago I was on a show on Lifetime called Army wives. What I loved about that was it was telling the story of military wives, because I know what my mom went through. There are always movies and stories about men in the military but it’s like a secret life unless you were raised that way, people don’t understand what the families go through. Like I mentioned earlier, changing schools, having to pack up 3-4 kids, spreading the money out, not being able to get a job. I didn’t realize it because it was my childhood, but I didn’t realize that it was a fascinating secret and life that people who weren’t raised that way, found it fascinating. I got to play this woman who owned this bar and she had a lot of things that happened to her. She had a bar that got bombed and she almost died and then she rebuilds the bar and she’s dying of cancer. She ends up leaving for this cancer center in California. There was a PR campaign with Warriors in Pink for Breast Cancer and FORD, so my character got to take off and drive off into the sunset in this amazing black mustang convertible with this pink heart painted on the front. And I got to do this pretty cool death scene which was pretty fun to do. [laughs] Actors might not tell you that, but we love to do death scenes!
You have had such an extension acting career from tv, film, theatre, voice-over acting. Do you remember the moment you decided to be an actress? What was the first tv show or film that made you fall in love with the art of acting?
I sorta can’t remember not wanting to act. I think I was always in my bedroom in front of the mirror pretending. Always. My mom who was from Southern California was a movie freak. She was raised in the ’30-’40s the great Hollywood era and she loved movies and especially because my father was overseas a lot. I went to see a lot of movies with my mom when I was super young. I just loved that feeling of sitting in a movie theater with popcorn and being in the dark. My mom raised me on movies and movie stars. My mom was also a really good singer and dancer. I think she would have loved to be an actress. She didn’t get to see POMS but she saw a lot of the other work I’ve done and kept scrapbooks. I can’t remember not ever wanting to be an actress. I kept coming back to acting because it was the place where I felt the most like myself.
Which has been your favorite character that you have played and why?
Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. It’s just an epic character for a woman. I just think I understand the kind of person that lives so much in her head and really loves beauty, literature and all of that but she’s is in total denial. She will do anything to survive because she has to, before she faces reality. I think I understand people who have a hard time with reality. [laughs] Maybe it’s me. When you play a really great character, you just want to play more of them!
‘The Act’ is available to stream on Hulu.
Poms is available for purchase now on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Katya Bakat is a rising actress currently working on several films and television projects. She began her career originally as a model, doing beauty competitions until she was signed by IMG Models at the age of 14. She has since worked for several well-known brands, Pacco Rabbana, Armani, Lanvin, L’Oréal, and Bulgari Jewelry.
It was after she established herself as a model that Katya began to find herself gravitating towards acting. Since her transition to acting, Katya has just wrapped a role in the mega-budget action feature film, Angel Has Fallen, whichstars Gerald Butler, Morgan Freeman, and Nick Nolte. On the small screen, Katya has a lead role in the upcoming series Magic 7 and has filmed for pilot show a Shadow Wolves. She also has a starring role in Honeymoon in Paradise, a film about a group of reality contestants looking for love and fame at a luxurious resort set in Saint Lucia.
In our Q&A with Katya, she describes her transition to acting, exciting roles and what the future holds for this rising star!
Clichė:You were signed to a modeling agency at the age of 14 before gravitating towards acting. What is it about acting that made you want to pursue it? Has it always a passion of yours?
Katya: I’m a creative person and could never imagine having a repetitive monotonous work in the office. Being a signer, designer, painter, model [and] actor are classic examples of creativity. Modeling is a great opportunity for a young girl to become financially independent, create [her] own style, meet different people, cultures, travel the world and explore. It’s really amazing [and] motivating because you really have to take care of your physical look. Being an actress is a totally different dimension. I’ve never dreamed of being an actress. I thought that [I] had to be outgoing, very communicative and social to be able to portray someone’s life story. At some point in my life, [while] I was a professional model, I realized that I have this desire to open up, to show the depth of my character, vulnerability, and be able to experience the lives of different characters, times, cultures…at that moment I knew that modeling is not enough, I wanted to be an actress.
What has the transition from modeling to acting been like for you? Were there any obstacles you had to overcome?
It is an entirely different profession, which requires different skills. Models are trained for posing, which includes extensive training that teaches them to keep the best postures, mimic and move. It’s all about the momentum. Even though models have a certain advantage when it comes to becoming an actor due to their comfort in front of the camera, however, models are not familiar with important aspects of acting, like the ability to analyze a script, breakdown a character, and make appropriate performance choices. Acting is a long run. Actors should understand and provide an adequate reaction to what’s going on on the stage or on set. It requires an understanding of emotional and physical responses of your own and of others. It wasn’t that hard for me. I went to The Lee Strasberg Film Institute and Theatre in NYC. It’s a traditional classic “method actors” education. And I’m very grateful to all the teachers who helped me let my fears [and] my shyness go, and open my acting abilities and talent. I’ve studied different techniques and I’m still attending acting school here in Los Angeles.
Since your transition into acting, you have landed roles alongside big names like Gerald Butler and Morgan Freeman. (Angel Has Fallen) Are you ever nervous on set? If so, how do you calm your nerves?
It’s an interesting fact! Before I’m on the set, I’m practicing, getting prepared, getting nervous, it’s a normal process…but as soon as I’m on the set, I’m getting this inner confidence, calmness, and clarity. No matter who I’m working with, we are a team, who are working on the same idea, the same project. I’m always excited and ready to be a part of it! But in any stressful situation, I’m trying to find 5-10 minutes to meditate. It’s very helpful!
Your upcoming film Honeymoon in Paradise is about a group of reality contestants looking for love. Before taking on this role, were you a fan of reality dating shows?
Absolutely not. I’ve been invited a couple of times to be a part of the dating reality shows. I might sound naive, but I still don’t know if it’s all set up and the contestants have the scripts and play “the roles” or it’s real stories, dramas, laughs and falling in real love. Either way, it’s not for me! But to experience “the dating show” in the movie was really fun. A beautiful Caribbean island, an incredible team, very positive vibes, and professionalism!
What is the backstory of your character in Honeymoon in Paradise?
My character is Britney, bikini model, hot, but kind of a mean girl. She is competitive. She is self-confident and ready to achieve her goals no matter what, even if it can hurt some people. She is self-centered, but also flirty, playful and positive. Since it’s a romantic comedy, there is no real drama or psychological twists. So Britney is not an evil person. She is just a young girl who uses her charm, beauty and manipulative skills to play her game!
In addition to modeling and acting in films, you also have the lead role in an upcoming series titled Magic 7. How has filming a television series differ from acting in films? Which do you prefer?
I love it all. There really isn’t much of a difference, I think. Having a part in an ongoing TV show gives you an opportunity to have a really long term job. And if it’s successful and has high ratings it can last for years! There’s a considerable difference in that TV actors have a chance to explore their characters over multiple episodes and seasons. Often, if the producers and writers on a show are reasonably collaborative, the actor will shape the character as the show evolves.
You’re currently filming a fantasy film Empire Queen, can you tell us about your leading role in the film and what has filming has been like?
This film is produced by Christopher Dane Owens and Jason Schulz. It’s a beautiful fantasy film, let’s say [it’s] Harry Potter for adults! The Golden Age of Magic. Jason is my dear friend for years, we’ve been already working together on a couple of great projects, one of it was a short film “Fashion Assassin”. So he knew my professionalism, work ethic, and experience. So I was invited to be a part of this interesting project. The filming is happening in California, I’m playing the role of Terra Winter, a powerful witch. I really enjoy it.
You’ve taken on plenty of projects this year. 2019 seems to be a big year for you! Do you ever get overwhelmed with the amount of work you do?
I love it all. I’m ready for much more ahead. It’s my passion, it’s my vocation. I love to be proactive and create or be a part of some interesting projects.
In all of the characters that you’ve played, which one is the most similar to you and why?
Well, I haven’t played a part yet, where I can say that. All the characters I’ve played are far from my own personality. Maybe the witch Terra Winter, she has a kind heart, compassionate, all is about justice and protective to her beloved ones. These qualities are essential for me.
Lastly, where do you see yourself in 5 years? What is the biggest goal you hope to accomplish by then?
5 years from now, I definitely want to have a family and kids. It’s really important to me. I want to achieve a big success in the film industry and become a big actress. I want to work on big projects. You know there is a saying – “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”. I also want to create a charity foundation for the kids.In my opinion, the greatest benefit of an actor has is the ability to participate in fundraising events and help people!
You can follow and check out on Katya on Instagram!
There’s no better place to have a joyous wedding than at a magical wonderland like The Houdini Estate. So who is the next person to bring the magic of Old Hollywood back to life with a super fancy soiree? It is none other than the gorgeous award-winning actress and Scream Queen, Brooke Lewis, who is having her marriage soiree at the famous Hollywood landmark. The night will kick off with a private family ceremony before the red carpet opens up and the celebrity performers take the stage for a Dance Party USA. We chatted with the soon bride to be, Brooke Lewis, about how she feels the wedding theme fits her and her fiancé’s personality, the most difficult detail of her wedding to agree upon and what she is most looking forward to on her wedding day.
Cliché: Can you describe the emotions and feelings that you got once your boyfriend Mark proposed to you at Griffith Observatory?
Brooke Lewis: Let me start by saying that I knew that Mark was going to propose to me, but what took me by surprise was the fact that he decided to ask to marry me on my birthday. It just so happened that day was the hottest day of the year in Hollywood on September 1, 2017 – and with that said – the old Cadillac limousine that he rented to pick me up and take me to Griffith Observatory, well as it turns out the air conditioning broke inside the car due to the extreme heat. At one point when we were in the car I thought we were going on some yacht or cruise ship for dinner but little did I know that Mark was going to propose to me at the Griffith Observatory. He proposed to me right next to the James Dean statue and across from the Hollywood sign; it was magical. It is one of the most memorable nights of my life.
Why did you choose the wedding theme, ‘Old Hollywood’? How do you feel the wedding theme fits you and your fiancé’s personality?
Mark and I love everything about Old Hollywood, and we thought what better place to transport our guests into Hollywood than an old famous Hollywood landmark from one of the most notable entertainers in the world – Harry Houdini. We envisioned Old Hollywood movie posters everywhere, black and white dance floors and Old Hollywood films.
I feel that it’s the undying love that we have for one another. He pursued me, which made me fall madly in love with him and then I stayed by his side through a lot of tough times, and here we are, almost four years later, and we feel like our life is a movie.
How would you describe the style of your wedding?
As much as I want it to be a super fancy soiree, we also want everyone to dance with us like its a rockstar party. At the wedding, there will be two big red carpets and a ton of talented celebrity performers. We chose not to make it black tie on purpose but instead we made it “Dress To Your Oscars Best … Of Any Era! Taylor & Burton and Rat Pack Style.”
First, I want to shout out to our celebrity DJ, Jon Gosselin, who is a friend of mine and my family in Philadelphia. He is a reality TV star of Jon & Kate Plus 8, and on top of that, he was voted last year as the No. 2 celebrity DJ in the country. He’s known for playing at clubs in the Northeast as well as Atlanta, but I don’t think the West Coast folks know how badass he is. He was the first person I reached out to when Mark and I decided that we were going full force with this marriage soiree and I said to him, “I beg you to come out. All I want is my dream for you to come out to spin at our wedding.” He responded, “I’m in.”
Another celebrity performer who will be the MC for the evening is none other than the veteran actor Kyle T. Heffner. Kyle and I had worked on a film project years ago, and I’ve always known him to be funny and talented. When I thought who could handle such a challenging job at this incredible long event and who can understand and embody that Old Hollywood vibe, it was Kyle. As for Kyle, he was discovered by Garry Marshall, who put him to work in Young Doctor’s in Love which led to his portrayal of Richie Blazik in Flashdance. Also, he appeared in other films such as Runaway Train, The Woman in Red, and When Harry Met Sally.
The next person I would like to shout out is our officiant Mitra Rahbar who has been a spiritual guide and a friend of mine for 18 years. She got praise from Jennifer Aniston, Gisele Bundchen, Sheryl Crow, and spiritual leader Michael Beckwith. She was one of the officiants for Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston’s wedding as well as one of the officiants for Tom Brady and Gisele’s wedding. When Mark and I got engaged, she offered us to do a blessing at the wedding, and we were grateful and shocked. I also would like to shout out the officiant guy for the wedding, and that is Chris Robinson. He has become a dear friend of Mark and me over the years, and he is the top non-denominational Wedding Minister in Southern California. Not to mention that he did the marriage ceremonies for Hugh Hefner, Gene Simmons, Tori Spelling, Gordan Ramsay, and The Real Housewives.
Last but not least, Mark and I were looking for a perfect Rabbi to do a blessing for my dad, but the truth is that I didn’t know where to go and we found Rabbi Craig Wyckoff whose the Rabbi at Congregation Tikkun Olam in Studio City, California. After we found him, I soon discovered that he was the owner of the first Talent Agency that signed me in Los Angeles 18 years ago. We are honored to have Rabbi Craig Wyckoff doing a blessing for my dad.
How many people are expected to attend? What is the order of events at your reception?
There will be 500 guests attending my wedding on June 1. Recently, I have been receiving messages and DM’s daily on Instagram from fans telling me that they are going to climb the gate at the Houdini Estate and crash my wedding and then take me away so that I won’t marry Mark. I felt that even at my level that I had to get a full security team and bodyguards to stand by the gate and I’m counting on my Public Relations team to stop people who try to crash our marriage soiree. The reason Mark and I are pretty open about the wedding is that everybody already knows about it and we need to protect everyone in every way.
Since we are expecting so many guests, who will be coming in from all over the world, we will have a private family ceremony. Afterward, all of the performances will open up, and then the soiree will open up, starting with the red carpet. Following that, there will be another small ceremony with the officiant Chris Robinson, and we will have a performance by the Sinatra impersonator Vaughn Suponatime from Jimmy Kimmel. Later on, Mark and I aim to have DJ Jon Gosselin come in to spin for the soiree before we dance to the song “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain and then I’ll be dancing with my dad to the song “Just the Way You Are” by Billy Joel.
The schedule is as follows: From 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. we will have a Dance Party USA, and then from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. we will have our dessert display and cake cutting and cocktails. Following dessert, we will have an incredible acoustic guitar player Dani Vargas performing a few songs.
What’s been the most fun detail of your wedding to plan? What’s been the most difficult detail of your wedding to agree upon?
One of the most fun details of my wedding to plan was picking out a bridal gown. I remember walking into the Jovani store and instantly falling in love with their dresses, and Jovani is styling my bridal gown in New York. Another incredible and magical thing that I could ever dream of is the other gown that I’ll be wearing made by one of the most famous Israeli designers – Inbal Dror.
I think having to create a balanced relationship with Mark and understanding each other’s emotions. There were nights where I cried all night because I wasn’t sure if we can pull off this marriage soiree and on top of that we had a lot to deal with emotionally and financially. Also, Mark has put up with a lot of my emotional crying and challenges, and I think the most beautiful thing is that it has given us both insight into one another as well as the strength that we need. I feel that if we can get through this wedding, then we can get through anything. Lastly, we are incredibly grateful for all the support our families have given us.
Can you talk about some of the most important moments leading up to your wedding?
I think some of the crucial moments leading up to my wedding has been the simple moments, emotional and heartfelt moments and the challenging moments which have shown our strengths as a couple and it has shown that if we can get through the wedding and not give up, it will show how strong we are as a couple. Hopefully, the rest of our lives will be easy-breezy from here. The other thing that is magical to me is that I feel reconnected with some of my closest friends from childhood, college, and New York.
What are you most looking forward to on your wedding day?
The last year and a half have been so stressful about production, and I’ve been under a lot and also not living a fun life. Mark and I chose something bigger than us, and it has blown into something enormous. I decided not to have a bachelorette party and a bridal shower because we just wanted to focus on this big event and have everyone with us. We are looking forward to our love and taking our vows, and I can’t believe I will be calling somebody my husband.
Is there anything you would like to add or say?
I want to shout out my team at Katz Public Relations and Allison Noelle who has done my hair and make-up. I couldn’t even imagine not having her by my side, and she will be doing all my glam, hair, and makeup. I also want to shout out to Eddie at Universal Print and Copy and to our incredible invitation designer Judith Campbell who has a company called Hott Mutt Creative. Lastly, I want to shout out to SHAN Social House, where we will have our family welcome dinner.
Life in Pieces is a comedy series on CBS in its fourth season. The show chronicles the lives of the Short Family as the large three-generation family delivers heartwarming, hilarious and awkward moments to viewers! The all-star ensemble cast includes Colin Hanks, Zoe Lister-Jones, Angelique Cabral, Betsy Brandt and is led by the legendary Dianne Wiest and James Brolin. Ana Sophia Heger plays Lark Short, the youngest star in the series and the adorable child of Greg (Colin Hanks) and Jennifer Short (Zoe Lister-Jones).
The young scene-stealer began auditioning for roles at the age of three and landed her first ever role as Lark! If her acting skills aren’t impressive enough, Ana is also fluent in German and is currently learning Spanish and French in between Preschool and dance classes!
Image courtesy of Life in Pieces / CBS
We had the chance to discuss her role, how she got into acting and what she likes to do when the cameras are off:
Cliché: This is your first acting job! How have you enjoyed being a part of Life in Pieces?
Ana: I love acting and enjoy being on this set so much because they are all so nice to me! I love seeing everyone! It’s my favorite activity!
Your parents on the show are played by Zoe Lister-Jones and Colin Hanks. What is it like working alongside them?
I love it because they always make jokes or do silly things. I also learn a lot, because they do something different [with] each take.
Image courtesy of Life in Pieces / CBS
How did you get your start into acting? When did you discover it was something you enjoy doing?
My Mom tells me that a lady discovered me at Starbucks. Suddenly I start to go to castings and Life in Pieces was one of them. I have always enjoyed acting, even before [getting discovered at] Starbucks, I make up stories to act out at home.
Your father is an actor. What acting advice has he given you?
Learn all my lines, really listen to my scene partner, so that I can respond naturally and not be over the top. He always makes sure I understand what the scene is about and helps with all my questions.
What’s your favorite part about acting?
I get to be somebody else. I love being creative and using my imagination!
Image courtesy of Life in Pieces / CBS
Tell us about your character, Lark! What do you like about playing her?
I like how Lark can be very silly and how different she actually is from me. When Lark finds out that her Mommy has another baby in her tummy, she is NOT at all excited, but when I found out my Mommy is pregnant in real life, I was very happy. We are quite different.
Other than acting, what are some hobbies you have?
My favorite thing other than acting is painting. I also enjoy my dance, piano and tennis lessons. I love trying many different activities!
What is it like auditioning for roles? Do you ever get nervous?
I get so excited, that I really do not feel nervous. I also love meeting new people and each casting is fun for me.
What has been your most interesting scene to film?
I loved all my “Potty” episode scenes. I had to pretend that Lark is not potty-trained yet, but I was already trained in real life! It was so much fun!
Image courtesy of Life in Pieces / CBS
And lastly, tell our readers why they should watch Life in Pieces!
I love that all the actors are so funny and that it is about a big family who really loves each other.
Life in Pieces airs Thursdays on CBS 9:30/8:30c.
You can follow Ana and see some behind the scenes glimpses of her work on Life in Pieces on Instagram @AnaSophiaHeger
Interview with Ana Sophia Heger: The young star of Life in Pieces: Featured Image: Courtesy of Rochelle Brodin / Shandrew PR
Lexi DiBenedetto discovered her passion and dedication to her craft at a very young age and grew up in front of the camera. Before she landed her role on Nickelodeon’s series Knight Squad, she appeared on a few hit television shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Modern Family. When she’s not busy acting or working, you can find her going horseback riding and going to the beach. We chatted with Lexi DiBenedetto about her character, Prudence, her experience working on Knight Squad and more.
Cliché: How did you first get involved with acting? What inspired you to pursue becoming an actress?
Lexi DiBenedetto: I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be an actor. My parents had me in commercials and local theater when I was young, but that grew into a serious passion very quickly. I talked my way into an adult acting class and began a character study when I was 8 years old. I fell in love with it and knew it was what I wanted to do.
I love being able to bring important stories to life and being part of telling them and I also find people fascinating.
What’s the experience like working on Knight Squad?
The experience working on Knight Squad was a lot of fun. We were able to learn some stunts and wear the coolest costumes while we were filming on a set based in a magical land. It really doesn’t get much better than that.
Can you describe your character, Prudence? What are some of the character traits that you share in life with the role you play in the show?
Prudence is a quarter giant on her mother’s side which gives her tremendous strength and a huge heart. She is the caregiver of the group and is extremely loyal to her friends. I would say Prudence and I both share that we are loyal and determined. We also both never miss the opportunity for a snack.
What’s the message of the show and what life lessons do you hope viewers take away when watching the show?
I hope that people learn to embrace themselves and do the right thing. We focus a lot on what makes everyone unique, is their greatest asset.
What’s your relationship like with the rest of the cast?
We clicked right from the start and worked well together while we all found our way with our characters. It was a blast working with the cast.
What have been some of your favorite experiences in your career so far?
I’ve had so many wonderful experiences and I’m very thankful for all of them. However, Knight Squad has been a highlight of my career and I learned so much from working on it.
What was the best advice that you’ve received about the acting industry and who was it from?
The best advice that I received was from my parents and they told me, “Believe in yourself and work hard.” They tell me that weekly.
What are some things you enjoy doing when you’re not acting or working?
I enjoy being outdoors. When I’m not working, I like to go horseback riding and go to the beach.
Are there any future projects that you are working on?
I have a few things I can’t talk about right now. I’ll keep everyone updated on my social media accounts. You can follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @dibenedettolexi.
Esther Turan is a force to be reckoned with. She proves this time and again through her roles as a creative producer, director, and the founder of Moviebar Productions. When she’s not directing or producing, you can find her empowering and teaching other females in the industry who are inspired to become filmmakers, directors, or producers. We chatted with Esther about her experience making her directorial debut with BP Underground, the challenges that she faced starting her own film production company, and the ways she is helping to empower women in the industry.
Cliché: What inspired you to get involved in the entertainment industry as a director and producer?
Esther Turan: I kind of journeyed into it because my father is a playwright and my aunt is a famous actress. I fell in love with the atmosphere that I found on the set. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be, but I knew this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
Being born and raised in Budapest, what was the vibe that you got once you came to the US? How did you manage to adjust to a new culture?
The first time I visited the United States I was 11 years old, since I have family in Chicago. I have always been Americanized in a way and I have always been interested in American culture. As a filmmaker, I think we all have to admit that at some point you start to dream about Hollywood, and as you know, once you make it in Hollywood then you can make it anywhere. So when I was a trainee in film school in between my freshman and sophomore year, I did an American production for a huge NBC drama and I had the chance to meet some big names. I also had the chance to witness how to make movies in America and I just really enjoyed it.
I use to work a lot with Americans before moving to the U.S. so there was nothing new for me. It’s not like I come from a completely different world, and you and I are probably similar age and listen to the same bands. The only thing I needed to do was adjust myself to American standards.
What was the experience like making your directorial debut with BP Underground?
My journey as a filmmaker started when I majored in TV directing, and then I focused on becoming a creative producer and I was very involved in the creative process of every project that I was working on. After some point of being a producer, I just had a burnout and thought instead of checking on other people’s projects that I wanted my voice to be heard with a message, and I should get it out.
What inspired you to establish Moviebar Productions? What challenges did you face in starting your own film production company?
Moviebar Productions is not a new thing as I established Moviebar Productions 14 years ago back in Hungary and it’s still a running company. Back in Hungary most of the producers were middle-aged men and I felt that it would be an interesting twist if a young woman under the age of 25 established a film production company and let’s see how it’s going to continue. My parents always taught me not to be afraid and have always encouraged me to dream. Eventually, I teamed up with the best production manager in town named Viktoria Trepper because I knew her and she gave me the expertise of physical production.
I always needed to find ways for people to take me seriously. When I first started out as a producer in the film production company, I found that creating strategies was challenging since you always have to adjust your strategies towards trends and what your goals are for the company. For instance, we started out producing television commercials, and then from the local market we created strategies for the worldwide market and then we reached a certain success.
How involved do you try and be in the creative process of films as a producer?
It depends on the project because every project is an individual project. It also depends on how I resonate with the specific director, producers or co-producers.
As a supporter of female empowerment and an advocate leader of women, can you describe your overall relationship with some other female filmmakers? In what ways are you helping to empower women in the industry?
I am very proud of the fact that my film production company is led by women, and I am also proud that I found a woman named Anna Koltay who would later become my co-director for the BP Underground series. However, I still feel that it’s a man’s world.
I am trying to surround myself with younger female colleagues who I can teach. Since the establishment of Moviebar Productions, we raised dozens of female filmmakers in the industry who started out as a trainee or as an assistant and then moved up to being a producer or production manager or line producer.
What’s the assumption or misconception that you’ve heard most often as a woman in Hollywood?
It’s not just my gender but it’s also me being from Central-Eastern Europe. In some cases, I did witness that some men from Hollywood and Western Europe think that women are easy to get and sometimes things get disturbing on set. I have learned to deal with it and if you’re pretty straightforward about your reaction then they will stop.
What has been the most memorable moment in your career?
The most memorable moment for me as a director was when we recently won a prestigious award for our documentary series BP Underground called Highlights of Hungary where the most creative causes and projects of our country are selected each year. The recognition of our work after investing so much energy and time was definitely a sweet moment. As a producer, there is no single moment but many moments of collaborating with some of the best filmmakers in the world. We’ve just finished a feature film with composer Nathaniel Mechaly and directors Björn Stein and Mans Marlind. I also had the chance to work with superb cinematographers such as Hoyte van Hoytema, Anthony Dod Mantle and John Mathieson.
At this point in your life, who was the person who helped guide you to get you to where you are now?
I think it would be my father, Robert Turan, and he is a playwright. He always has a huge interest in my taste and love for art, theater, and movies since I was a child.
What is your number one goal in 2019?
I’d love to continue growing our presence in Hollywood and collaborate with more great filmmakers. My dream would be to sell some of my ideas to the biggest T.V. platforms and creatively being involved in television.